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Full Version: On the topic of APS. [Balance talk.]
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Hi, If you know me from the discord, you probably know me as someone who highlights ways to purpose tailor the APS system to match certain threats, but here I am, just writing a big post talking about what I think the system has wrong.

TLDR: When it comes time to balance APS, changes that make the system more internally balanced should see some focus over blanket nerfs.
Focused nerfs should primarily target the overpowered aspects of APS, while explicitly trying to leave the weak parts of the system unharmed.

My assumptions coming here are that:
  • You like game systems that have a good degree of balance.
  • You like it when a system drives you to try a great deal of things.
When it comes to APS, there are currently two major sources of problems for the system: The systems own internal tendency to discourage a diversity of weapons, and the systems tendency to vomit out spam that completely rends hostile ships to nothing at low costs. 

The things which should not be touched/damaged with the APS system is the systems basic capacity to represent almost any conceivable/believable cannon system fairly well with the right cannon to shell combination.

Both will be highlighted separately for each issue I discuss.

Part size limitations only benefit large diameter shells, make larger shells disproportionately more powerful.
  •  System diversity issue to APS: Big shells can use incredibly powerful transformative parts in bulk without issue.
Length bonuses make it so the moment you exceed belfted length, longer shells from bigger loaders become increasingly efficient.
  •   Balance issue: Makes big APS spam incredibly strong.
  •   System Diversity issue: Makes it so APS cannons naturally drift to a few extreme patterns of cannon design, as exaggerated cannon patterns will become inherently stronger.
Kinetic energy is almost solely based on case length to shell length ratios.
  • System Diversity issue:  There isn't much in the way of design options for single-function shells, especially kinetics.
  • Explanation: There are two optimal kinetic penetrators which become dominant in most cases once you have a certain length to gunpowder ratio. If your shell has few parts, sabot-sabot-ap cap is strongest, if you have many parts, solid-solid-sabot-sabot-sabot cap is strongest.
    (Both of these penetrators ideally use a base bleeder, but you might substitute this out based on your needs.)

Beltfeds are broken, favoring fat short shells to be spam cannoned. (A shell more then 250mms can reload instantly in beltfeds, allowing for efficient explosive spam with incredible efficiency, and potency.)
  • Balance issue: It makes small spammy thick shells inherently excessively powerful.
  • System Diversity issues: Having one option that is internally so far ahead of other options when it comes to chemical damage is a bit of a problem.

There are a number of ways to address these issues.
I will list a few. None of these changes are the be-all, end all solution to APS's problems, but they are options nonetheless.

Length bonuses on rate of fire diminish for maximum volume shells, such that a shell that is at 50% of the autoloaders volume will get the maximum rate of fire bonus, and that a shells at 100% volume of an autoloader get 30% of the rate of fire bonus instead.
  • Nerf APS spammability for the strongest shells, make a larger range of shells something that is worth considering.
  • As a general note: The maximum volume of an autoloader is a 500mm shell of its length, we aren't talking about how full the magazine is here.
  • The direct implications of this change is straightforward: Shells of 250mm or less get full bonuses from autoloaders, and shells of greater diameter get the full bonuses from autoloaders if they are somewhat shorter then the autoloaders length. Shells of the maximum length and diameter of an autoloader do not get free bonuses thrown at them.
Part size limitations are equally applied to all shells, making them part length multipliers instead of caps. 
  • Make the cannon shell designer more consistent with itself: Efficiency altering parts should be given to all shells at a similar length-effect ratio.
Recoil scales less linearly with shell diameter: A more steep slope to the recoil curve as shell diameter increases.
  • A less extreme limitation to volume of fire, one which makes derp-guns slightly more difficult to mount.
    • A positive effect of this change would be that big guns would feel bigger overall.
    • Scaling cooldown time like this is also an option.
Longer bullets get some gunpowder efficiency bonus with a diminishing effect.
  • This would be a heavy slug buff, so that having a greater bullet length-to-case length has less of an inherent performance cost.
  • This allows shells with more complex or flexible capabilities to be more competitive when compared to simpler cannon shells being spammed.
  • Side note: The barrel length requirements for long shells are absolutely cartoonish, and probably should be tuned too.
Beltfeds base rate of fire is reduced slightly, beltfeds get increased rate of fire with more gun barrels to compensate.
 The idea is to make beltfeds more balanced. 

Have the 6 second wait time on reload scale with how large the shell is when compared to a standard shell, so that the beltfeed reload time is more reasonable with small and large shells, to make beltfeds a bit more fair to shells of all scales.
  • The idea is to make beltfeds more balanced
  • As a note: A standard shell is typically in the game files noted to be a 200mm shell of the length of whatever is being brought up in a given context.

Why don't we nerf APS then fix its internal balance issues later?

This could work, but addressing the internal and external balance issues in a short window of time would be best:
An improvement to the systems viable diversity would make the system feel better as a whole, even if it was objectively weaker. As such, making APS more balanced with itself would be a considerable quality of life improvement for the people who do use it.

At the same time, limiting the most powerful aspects of APS would make the system less problematic to the people whom feel like the system is crushing other aspects of the game.

As such, both issues should be addressed hand in hand, at the same time, such that the quality of life of everyone improves, rather then nerfing a very diverse and interesting weapon system completely into the ground.
You could probably take care of beltfed spam cannons just by increasing the drag coefficient on shells when shell length exceeds casing length.

You could also replace beltfed loaders with "linkless loaders" that only accept shells under 125mm. (so a 0.25m autoloader, basically).
- Drag doesn't kick in until a shell has existed for its effective time, if this was not the mechanic, cannons could not be aimed by the LWC.
Right - that explains some things I didn't really understand before about large/small shell mechanics, thanks.

I guess that would also be pretty crappy for most HESH and HEAP shells too.
As a note: If you are one of the people who dissents int the poll, I would love to hear your opinion.

I expect people who don't think APS needs adjusting are largely worried about the role of how hard-counters interact with APS, and this isn't something I have completely ignored.

However, APS adjustments are necessary before we can even start to consider "How do we relax the hard counters for APS," because without these hard counters there would be no defense against APS other then moving/teleporting really fast such that godly shells never reach you.
I notice this thread here only now, but I can get under most of the changes proposed here. This thread could use some more attention.